As a student of ballet, I would often hear all the different things that the “older dancers” would do to their pointe shoes and felt like they practically had to use everything, except maybe a flame thrower, to properly prepare them. I found myself wondering what every ballerina did to create the “perfect” pair of pointe shoes. So I wanted to share how I prep my shoes to show you all, how even as a professional dancer, I don’t do anything super insane, crazy, or time consuming. Instead, over the years I have found what works for me and what doesn’t, along with some help tricks and tips that I can’t wait to share with you!
What Brands I Use
First things first, I get my pointe shoes, sewing supplies, ribbons and elastics. I’m currently switching off between wearing Bloch European Balance Pointe Shoes and Capezio Ava Pointe Shoes . I love them both because they are well suited for my broad feet and feature softer shanks. Once I have my shoes, I get some Bloch Elastic and Stretch Ribbons with a Bunheads Stitch Kit. Truly, I can’t recommend the stretch ribbon enough, as they form to your foot beautifully and do not aggravate your Achilles’ tendon. I get all of these products for the best price on Dance Supplies . Plus, if you buy a certain number of pointe shoes from their website then you will get a pair for free.
Once I get everything I need, the first thing I do is de-shank my shoe by cutting out half of the shank. I cut it around the middle, usually where the side seam of the side shoe is. However, I definitely do not recommend doing this unless you are a professional or a serious pre-professional ballet dancer. Until then, I think it’s very important for young dancers to have the entire shank of shoe until foot strength is properly developed. That way when your foot muscles are strong enough, you can speak with an instructor and experiment with cutting your shanks at different lengths and see what is best for you .
Laces & Elastic
Next, I sew my elastic and ribbons. I don’t crisscross my elastic, instead I sew them by attaching each end towards the very back of my shoe, so they are almost touching with only about half an inch in between them. Then I sew my ribbons on and I sew them in one long strip versus having one strand of ribbon per side of my pointe shoe. I sew them at the top of each side of the shoe then have the strand connected in the middle , which will sit under the arch of my foot once I put it on. I find that doing this is good backup plan, just in case one side of the ribbon becomes unsewn. By having the ribbon be in one long strand ensures that even if the stitching comes out that the ribbon will not fall off and will stay tied around your ankle. So this is definitely a good thing to consider for performances.
Scratching & Scraping
I find that I feel much more stable and secure after I scrape and scratch the bottom of my pointe shoes. What I do is take a pair of scissors (carefully!) and make scratches on the bottom of the shoe. This helps decrease the likelihood of a slip or fall. I also will scrape down the sides of the outside sole. This creates a more even platform on the bottom, which helps me feel more stable when I stand flat in my pointe shoes, which is especially helpful during an adagio (and who doesn’t want that!?).
I hope you enjoyed hearing the story behind every single one of my pointe shoes. When it comes to pointe shoes, it is so important to understand that what works for you might not work for someone else. So just because I do something doesn’t mean that you have to! Feel free to try any of my tips, tricks, and products and be open to the fact that they may or may not be what’s best for you as a dancer. Also I would love to hear some of the things you do to customize your shoes. Till then, keeping dancing and stay on those toes!
Every Ballerina Needs to Take a Bow